Prize-giving ceremony 2021

The 2021 prize-giving ceremony was held on 11 November 2021 at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery. The prize was presented the prize to the winner, Toby Young, by the acclaimed investigative journalist, Michael Crick, who has been scrupulous in holding the powerful to account for decades.

Toby Young, a journalist, author and social commentator, has championed the importance of freedom of speech. The prize recognises the independence, courage and sacrifice of individuals in British public life whose ideas challenge the status quo.

Young established the Free Speech Union in 2020 in response to the pervasive threat to open discussion and has cited research by Lincoln University which found that discourse in the UK was less well protected than every other state in the EU bar one. The Union helps individuals fight back if they have been no-platformed on university campuses, fired for expressing their views, or rounded on by mobs on twitter.

Reacting to his win, he said "Free speech is in greater peril that at any time since WWII and I am delighted to have won the Contrarian Prize in recognition of the Free Speech Union’s efforts to protect it.”

The prize-giving ceremony attracted an eclectic group of leading individuals from multiple fields including finance, business, law, the media, politics, the charitable sector, the arts, academia and dance music.

The prize, symbolised in the form of a stunning sculpture entitled the “Three Politicians”, was produced by the renowned pop artist, Mauro Perucchetti. The founder of the prize, Ali Miraj, said, “We live in an era where meaningful discussion on a whole range of issues is being closed down. Irrespective of whether or not you agree with his views, Toby Young has had the courage to stand up for the right of people to be able to express their opinions in an open society and that is the bedrock of any democracy.”

You can read his speech here 

Please click onto any of the links below for the 2021 event:

2021 Introduction video - Contrarians have to courage to speak out

2021 Nominations video

2021 Prize-giving ceremony video

2021 Prize-giving photo gallery